Homicide Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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Homicide includes a wide range of criminal acts, including murder and manslaughter. Homicide is an area of law unique to the criminal justice system; while there are parallels to it in tort law, homicide has its own set of definitions and legal requirements. 

Because of the complexity of homicide law, understanding the meaning of homicide can be difficult. This article is a brief guide to help you better understand what this term means in both criminal and civil contexts.

What Is Homicide? 

Homicide (/ˈhäməˌsīd/,ˈhɒm əˌsaɪd, hom-i-cide) is defined by criminal law as the killing of a human being by another human being. The word homicide denotes a severe criminal offense, which may be committed either with or without malice aforethought.

In general, homicide consists of four main categories: murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicides, and excusable homicides. 

Murder is considered one of the most severe offenses in both domestic and international jurisdictions; it requires proof beyond reasonable doubt that an accused killed another person intentionally or with a deliberate lack of intention to cause death but caused it nonetheless. This distinction between murder and manslaughter (or unlawful killing) rests on the presence or absence of intent to cause death.

Manslaughter occurs when someone kills another person without intending his death or realizing that his action could possibly cause someone’s death. This means they act recklessly (without knowing what they were doing) rather than intentionally killing someone else through their actions. 

At the end of the day, there are many different types of homicide when it is discussed legally, including but not limited to: 

  • Criminal homicide
  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Negligent homicide
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • First-degree murder
  • Second-degree murder

If you were to look in a thesaurus for word lists of synonyms for the word, you would like to find words including: 

  • Murder
  • Execution
  • Massacre
  • Killing
  • Slaying
  • Felony Murder
  • Act of Killing
  • Assassination
  • Extermination
  • Slaughter

What Is the Etymology of the Word Homicide? 

The word homicide has a long history, coming from Latin and other romantic languages. The term itself begins with two Latin roots: homo, meaning “man,” and fecit or facere, meaning “to do.” 

Together, this forms homo facere — a person who “does man.” As time went on, the word became the Latin homicidium or homicīda, which is much more similar to the word’s modern form. 

The word traveled through many other languages, including Old French and Middle English, before it finally became the word that we are familiar with today. 

The word homicide has come to be used chiefly in legal contexts rather than in everyday conversation; however, it’s still helpful in describing criminal activity or determining how crimes should be punished under different circumstances. 

What Is the Difference Between Criminal Law and Tort Law?

Criminal law is based on the state. This means that if you commit a crime, it has to be defined as such by the laws of your state before you can be charged. If you don’t fit into this category, you cannot be punished for committing a crime. 

Tort law is based on the victim — not necessarily what happened or who did it, but how much damage was done (or how much money was lost). In other words, if someone were to burglarize your home and steal your laptop without hurting anyone, this would not constitute a “crime” unless there was an intent to harm or threaten someone else’s life or property. That could result in jail time for robbing someone else’s property without their permission (theft). 

However, if this person breaks into someone’s home while they are sleeping at night with the state of mind and intent to kill them, this would fall under “criminal activity.” This is because murder requires premeditation rather than just breaking into someone’s house out of malice or anger towards another person. 

What Are the Consequences of Homicide? 

The consequences of homicide can be severe, with the death penalty being a possibility for aggravated murder convictions. Criminal law varies from one state to another, so you must know your state’s regulations before deciding whether or not your case should be handled as a criminal matter. 

Civil law also applies in this area; if you are responsible for killing someone else through negligence, you may face civil charges. 

In almost every place in the modern world, killing a person is one of the most severe criminal charges possible. Even if the form of homicide was based on self-defense, it is taken very seriously any time there is an unintentional or intentional killing of a human being. Even committing bodily harm is taken incredibly seriously and can result in hefty sentences. 


The definition of homicide is critical to be aware of and know how to use appropriately. Every time a person kills another person, it’s crucial to understand precisely what terminology to use to correctly and accurately express what happened. 

Clear communication is one of the most essential parts of life in the modern world, and knowing how to use language in high-stress situations is necessary for success. 

If you want to grow in your ability to communicate effectively, please check out our blog here at The Word Counter — we’re constantly updating it with new articles, posts, and guides to using language most effectively and powerfully. If there are any unclear words, confusing phrases, or frustrating grammar rules that you don’t know how to use, check out our blog for answers! 

The best way to succeed in life is by learning how to communicate effectively, and The Word Counter exists to equip people to do exactly that—check out our blog to see what you can learn! 


Homicide Definition & Meaning | Dictionary.com

HOMICIDE | Cambridge English Dictionary

Homicide definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary